Second G’town vote splits projects

GERMANTOWN—Voters in the Germantown Central School District vote on two propositions for capital projects Thursday, June 11. Polls are open from noon to 9 p.m. in the Germantown Central School lobby, 123 Main Street.

The final information night prior to the vote is Tuesday, June 9 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the school cafetorium. District voters are welcome to attend this meeting with their questions. A special issue of the school newsletter outlines the propositions, and information can also be found on the school website, germantowncsd.org, and by calling 518 537-6281.

Proposition #1 presents 28 items that would make repairs and update facets of the school, much of which is almost 100 years old, Superintendent Susan Brown said Tuesday. These repairs go from below ground —connecting to the town’s sewer system on Route 9G—to the school’s second floor, where ventilation and air quality would be improved.

Lights and cameras would be added to the parking lots, the cafetorium would be upgraded and air-conditioned and school security and access would be tightened.

The most expensive individual item among the 28 is $740,000 for renovating the baseball and softball fields. The least expensive item is $20,000, to create a science lab in the elementary school.

The estimated actual total for the 28 items is $4.185 million. Large projects like these also factor in contingency and soft costs. Ben Maslona of Fiscal Advisors & Marketing in Syracuse, who crunched the numbers, added two contingency figures—10% for design and 8% for construction—and 20% for soft costs, such as office costs, everything else that is not actual design and construction.

That brings the total cost to $5,966,136.

Nevertheless, there is no tax increase for Proposal #1 on its own. New York State would reimburse the district for 58.8% of the $5.9 million, and the district would use $500,000 of its capital reserve. The estimated local share of $186,985 per year could be absorbed by current property taxes.

Proposition #2 is a 29th item: an addition on the east side of the school with a secure entry, band room, theater arts classroom, auditorium, rest rooms and lobby. Also part of #29 are bleachers for the current gym and relocating the outdoor basketball court and playground to make room for the addition.

The cost of Proposition #2 is $4,349,046.

Proposition #2 cannot pass on its own, however. Proposition #1 must pass in order for Proposition #2 be considered even if Proposition is approved. If #2 passes but #1 doesn’t, neither project will happen.

The total cost of the two propositions, including contingencies of 10% for design and 8% for construction, plus 20% for soft costs, is $11,382,056. The same revenue factors in, with New York State paying 58.8% and the Capital Reserve paying $500,000. The estimated local share of the larger project per year is $435,939.

If both Proposition 1 and 2 pass, a tax increase would begin in 2021. It would be $0.378 per $1,000 of assessed value; this would mean that a home assessed at $160,000 would see an estimated yearly tax increase with no exemptions of $60.48. With a NYS STAR exemption (primary residence, any age, income limit of $500,000), the increase would be $49.14. For those with an Enhanced STAR exemption (primary residence, 65 or older, income limit of $84,550) there would be no increase.

At $200,000 of assessed value, the estimated annual increases are $75.59 (no exemptions), $64.25 (STAR) and $51.33 (Enhanced STAR). At $240,000 of assessed value, the annual increases are, respectively, $90.71, $79.37 and $66.45.

For a taxpayer wondering why me, why now, the district response includes not only taking advantage of low interest rates and high state aid, but also enhancing the school for 21st-century learning, continuing what it offers and expanding STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math). Further, the 29 items were developed by a community-based committee and have been identified in annual building inspections and five-year plans.

In a close March 10 vote—345 against, 312 in favor—district voters quashed an $11.3 million capital project in which, essentially, this month’s Propositions #1 and #2 were combined in one ballot proposal. In an effort to respond to the voters, the Board of Education decided to divide the project into two propositions.

And if Proposition #1 goes down on June 11? Is there a Plan C?

“No,” Mrs. Brown said Tuesday. “The board decided to put this project before the voters.” These bonded projects, she added, are in addition to small repairs and emergency fixes that are part of every annual school budget.

“It is my hope that the community will approve both the maintenance piece and the addition of an auditorium and classroom facilities,” board Vice President Tammi Kellenbenz wrote in an email Tuesday. “But if voters reject this plan, the BOE and the superintendent will work with the architect and the facilities director to move forward on the much-needed repairs,” wrote Ms. Kellenbenz, whose two sons attend the Germantown school.

“If Proposition One goes down, we’ll have to talk about putting up just one proposition, without the other,” board member Ralph DelPozzo said Tuesday. “Repairs have to be made,” said Mr. DelPozzo, who has lifetime ties to the district. “Things need to be updated.”

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